73rd General Assembly
Salt Lake City, Utah

The country finds itself in a deep institutional crisis caused by the polarization of the various political players. News, opinions and criticisms about the national and regional governments tend to be responded to with violence against journalists.

Despite the fact that in July 2016 President Jimmy Morales promised to give follow-up to the Program of Protection of Journalists no effective action has been seen in that regard. The president ordered his officials to work on the matter and he also made a commitment at the IAPA meeting in Antigua.

Attacks upon journalists continue, especially inland. Several mayors, organized crime and drug traffickers have forced a high level of self-censorship due to the harassment and all kinds of violence.

The International Anti-Impunity Commission in Guatemala (CICG) has presented accusations of corruption against the president, his son and his brother. Also recently it did so against the mayor of Guatemala City, Álvaro Arzú. It accused him of using municipal funds to pay for political propaganda in the country's general elections, and of hiring people linked to famous prisoners who remain in jail as a consequence of their participation in the murder of Monsignor Juan Gerardi in 1998 (the year in which Mr. Arzú was president of Guatemala and those accused were his personal guards). The mayor accepted that he hired these people and declared that he would so again.

On August 27 President Morales declared as persona non grata CICIG Commissioner Iván Velásquez and ordered his immediate departure from the country for his denunciations about illicit electoral financing.

The Constitutional Court ordered the president to cease his actions against Velásquez.

The national Congress made changes to the Penal Code in which it was permitted to grant measures in favor of all those who might have been sentenced to prison for terms less than 10 years. This action was taken as an open measure of protection for themselves and for President Morales and his family. If this amendment had entered into force it would have been possible to free all those convicted of violations, sexual abuse, theft, aggravated robbery and a whole lot of offenses with sentences of less than 10 years' imprisonment.

Reacting to this, thousands of people gathered in Constitution Square to call for the president's resignation. These events have polarized society.

In early October there was held a demonstration against Velásquez in which several reporters were threatened and harassed by a blogger and Tweeter by the name of Rodrigo Polo, who demanded their identification and say that the coverage they would make would be balanced and objective. These journalists were Edwin Bercián of Publinews, Esbín García of Prensa Libre, Félix Acajabón of elPeriódico and Michelle Menoza, CNN correspondent who submitted a denunciation at the Human Rights Public Prosecutor's Office.

Attacks from net centers and anonymous social media accounts upon journalists and cyber attacks on news media's Web sites have increased in these last few months. The object of the attacks has been some journalists who report from sources of the Presidency and the Congress, especially those that have op-ed pieces and/or interviews in independent news media. The attacks are produced when there is criticism of the governing party (Frente de Convergencia Nacional, FCN Nación).

Within the discrediting campaign there have been ferocious offensives against Guatevisión and Prensa Libre, media that have been accused of being "Communists" or "leftists". Similar accusations have been made against the directors of Soy502, Nómada (both Web sites) and the opinion radio program "Con Criterio."

In addition to this discrediting campaign the Guatevisión channel has been subjected to blocking of its signal, particularly in the cable companies in inland Guatemala, when it broadcasts information about corruption. It is worth noting that it is precisely members of Congress, mayors or "dark" persons who are the owners of many of these cable companies.

The president's work agenda is not shared with the independent media, only with those media that are considered "allies" of the government. The blockage of information to the media is the policy of the Social Communication Secretariat.

Among the advances regarding investigations into the murders of journalists in May there were handed down two sentences against those responsible for murdering two journalists in Jutiapa and Chiquimula provinces. Unfortunately, there could not be put on trial and sentenced the masterminds of the murders. Similarly, in the second week of October there were sentenced to 30 years in prison the perpetrators of the murder of Danilo López and Francisco Salazar, killed in March 2015, unfortunately the person accused of being the mastermind, a Congressman, continues in pre-trial proceedings that have been underway for a year and are now halted.